The experiences met with by the voluntary band of observers to secure the data needed in their work are romantic in the extreme. An average winter trip requires from a day and a half to two days and a half from Reno. From the base of the mountain the ascent must be made on snow-shoes. When work first began there was no building on the summit, and no shelter station on the way. Imagine these brave fellows, daring the storms and blizzards and fierce temperatures of winter calmly ascending these rugged and steep slopes, in the face of every kind of winter threat, merely to make scientific observations. In March, 1906, Professor Johnson and Dr. Rudolph spent the night at timber-line in a pit dug in the snow to obtain protection from a gale, at the temperature of 5 deg. Fahr. below zero, and fought their way to the summit. But so withering was the gale at that altitude even at mid-day, that a precipitate retreat was made to avoid freezing. The faces of the climbers showed plainly the punishment received. Three days later Dr. Church attempted to rescue the record just as the storm was passing. He made his way in an impenetrable fog to 10,000 feet, when the snow and ice-crystals deposited by the storm in a state of unstable equilibrium on crust and trees were hurled by a sudden gale high into the air in a blinding blizzard. During his retreat he wandered into the wildest part of the mountain before he escaped from the skirts of the storm.
Other experiences read like chapters from Peary’s or Nansen’s records in the Frozen North, and they are just as heroic and thrilling. Yet in face of all these physical difficulties, which only the most superb courage and enthusiasm could overcome, Dr. Church writes that, to the spirit, the mountain reveals itself, at midnight and at noon, at twilight and at dawn, in storm and in calm, in frost-plume and in verdure, as a wonderland so remote from the ordinary experiences of life that the traveler unconsciously deems that he is entering another world.
In the last days of October, 1913, I was privileged to make the trip from Reno in the company of Dr. Church, and two others. We were just ahead of winter’s storms, however, though Old Boreas raved somewhat wildly on the summit and covered it with snow a few hours after our descent. The experience was one long to be remembered, and the personal touch of the heroic spirit afforded by the trip will be a permanent inspiration.